To celebrate the launch of her second album, “Supernova,” singer-songwriter Caitlyn Smith talked to us about growing up in Cannon Falls, and how a 14-hour trip to Nashville changed her destiny.
What was your hometown of Cannon Falls, MN, like?
Cannon Falls is a sweet little one stoplight town, and the folks that live there are the definition of “Minnesota nice.” My backyard growing up was the ball field, and I remember them blaring Van Morrison and incredible rock and roll music every game night, so that was basically the soundtrack to my childhood. There is a 5 o’clock whistle that goes off in town — every day — letting everyone know it’s dinner time. The quaint downtown reminds me of a movie scene, with a picturesque waterfall, and two-story red brick businesses lining just a few blocks. Everybody knows everybody, and (not to be over dramatic) it was truly a magical place to grow up.
Following your heart is one of Free People’s “mantras.” Your pilgrimage from Cannon Falls to Nashville was surely that? Tell us about that first trip?
I heard Nashville was the place to go if you wanted to do anything in music… So, my mom took me on my first trip to Nashville when I was 16 years old. With one connection, we made the 14-hour car ride to see what it was all about. I immediately fell in love — seeing other people with the same passions and dreams and an entire community of folks just like me? I felt understood. I learned that a “staff songwriter” was a job and it blew my mind. You can just get paid to write songs? How cool! I knew it was where I needed to be. I spent the next 7 years traveling back and forth from Minneapolis to Nashville until I finally made the move — and I’m so grateful I did.
Your album “Supernova” serves as a lyrical journey through your life. Was there one experience in particular on which you leaned heavily when creating it?
There wasn’t one specific experience — this record actually covers a lot of ground. I intentionally explored all the different spaces of my life for inspiration — 10 years of marriage, motherhood, loneliness on the road, anxiety, change and heartbreak. A supernova is the fullest expression of a star — and this record, to me, is my fullest expression of human emotion. The highs and lows and everything in between.
Who are your heroes?
Carole King, Dolly Parton, Alison Krauss, Patty Griffin, Paul Simon, The Beatles.
What does your songwriting process look like?
It varies from song to song, and the process is ongoing. I always have my antennas up for the next idea, and keep a list of ideas and titles in my phone… when I sit down to write, it’s typically with a collaborator or two — we catch up, talk about what’s inspiring us lately, and see what emotions are hanging around in the room that day. Sometimes I come in with an idea of what I wanna write, and other days it takes a while to search for the right vibe/emotion/song title/hook. Some days it flows, and it’s magic, and the song falls out of nowhere. Other days — you wrestle for an hour on the right rhyme in the second verse. Both are exhilarating… but that minute right after you finish and know you just created something out of nothing? That’s a feeling that never gets old.
We have so many aspiring artists within the FP community. What are your top 3 pieces of advice?
- Lean in to what makes you uniquely YOU and do that — unapologetically. There are so many artists out there trying to find their way — so find what it is that sets you apart — and make your own lane, baby.
- Whatever it is you want to do — sing, write, paint, dance, produce… do it as much as you possibly can. Practice. Fail. Then learn and keep trying. Don’t be afraid to pivot, to evolve, to change. THIS is what makes you grow.
- Don’t listen to the outside voices. Lots of loud people may have opinions but they aren’t necessarily the voices you should be listening to. Find a few people that you trust to be honest with you through it all and don’t let them go.
Your dream concert venue?
It’s a tie between a beautiful, breathtaking theatre and a perfect 75-degree evening having a singalong under the stars (like Red Rocks or Hollywood Bowl).
When you’re not performing, what do you and your family love to do?
I’ve got two young boys, and my husband and I love to take them out and explore the cities we tour through… going for walks or finding a good hike, trying new restaurants and making sweet memories.
If NASA asked you to name a new star, what would it be?
The star formerly known as Prince.
Wearing the Sabrina Maxi Top.